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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Act of Valor

Oh. Boy.

Believe me, when I say that the best thing by far about Act of Valor (pardon the spelling) is that it's entirely forgettable, I don't mean that lightly. The plot, the characters, the action - everything about the film is the very definition of generic mediocrity. Everything, that is, except for a couple of very notable points. And by "notable" I do, of course, mean blood curdingly awful.

See, someone had the brilliant idea that in order to grant some sort of "authenticity" to what is otherwise a decidedly ordinary action film, they should cast real life Navy SEALs as the Navy SEAL heroes of this fictional story. Surprise, surprise, this "brilliant idea" turned out to be anything but.

The reason why us silly critics like to make such a big deal out of the caliber of acting in films is simply because without convincing acting, nothing else in the film has a chance in hell of working. It's all about buying into the world of the film, you see. The real-life Navy SEALs in Act of Valor may know a lot about combat, but they clearly don't know jack about acting. As such, instead of creating believable people who the audience can believe in, the "stars" yank the viewer violently out of the film every time they open their mouths. You can almost see the cue cards hiding behind the cameras from which the "actors" are forced to impassively read. The dialogue is already pretty rotten but it's made unbearable when it's delivered by actors who make the cast of Baywatch (how's that for a topical reference?) look like the Royal Shakespeare Company.

OK, so we have a generic action film with bad dialogue and worse acting but that's still not the worst of it. The thing that truly distinguishes Act of Valor as one of the worst films of the year, rather than forgettable nonsense that can simply be swept under the rug and forgotten about, is that this apparent nuts and bolts action flick is actually a sickeningly obvious recruitment video for the Navy SEALs.

The reason why the characters are so bland isn't simply because they're badly written - though they certainly are that - but because they need to be shown as the kind of perfect do-gooder super-men that the US Navy clearly wants viewers to not only worship but want to be. These people don't have personal problems, they are never less than anything but perfect shots and civilian deaths don't occur through even the most accidental and unavoidable actions on their part. Yes, it shows that there is some danger in this line of "work" but the only protagonist not to make it out alive, dies a glorious and heroic death. This isn't an "authentic" look at Navy SEALs in action, this is vulgar propaganda at its most distasteful and most blatantly manipulative.

Shitty filmmaking is one thing, sickeningly destructive lies masquerading as an "authentic experience" is quite another.


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